By Jay Turner for PCGS ……
What does it take to become a nation? In short, the answer is declaring independence and gaining recognition.
But the theory of what a nation is has left many to philosophize the concept of sovereign nations. This practice has led to individuals and groups pushing the idea of a nation and even creating the term “micronation” to define this state ideology. Dozens to hundreds of micronations have been declared and disappeared.
Yet one, the Nation of Celestial Space (or Celestia), might be one of the most ambitious with the claim for the entirety of outer space.
James T. Mangan, an author of self-help books living in Illinois, United States, would walk into the Recorder of Deeds and Titles in Cook County and register the Nation of Celestial Space. Mangan claimed the entirety of outer space, later defined as the entirety of the universe besides Earth, as Celestia. Founding Celestia in 1949, Mangan cited his move was to stop other countries from claiming outer space and that this was done on behalf of humanity.
The government of Celestia would be a hybrid of republic and monarchy, with Mangan as founder and first representative. From this, Mangan then sought recognition for his nation by notifying the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations of his claim. To these states, Mangan demanded they ban all further atmospheric nuclear tests, as it was an encroachment on Celestia.
As space exploration took off in the United States and the Soviet Union, Mangan sent letters of protest to leaders of both nations demanding they stop, as it encroached upon his territory. Mangan also claimed that since all broadcast media enters space, including all radio and television, it would thus be banned–with the exception of broadcasts from the United States.
Nevertheless, Mangan and his nation of Celestia were ignored.
To seek recognition of Celestia, the flag of Celestia was first unfurled on television in 1958 with a stunt at the United Nations building in New York, where the flag was raised alongside those of other nations. Mangan applied for recognition with the United Nations claiming that the nation had 100,000 members as of 1958 when the actual number is published to be about 19,000 in 1959. Celestia was never to be recognized by the United Nations.
Mangan did what he could to establish the grandiose claim for his Nation of Celestial Space. He went so far as to issue passports for astronauts to enter space. But what little remains of this nation are postage stamps and coins issued by Celestia.
Nation of Celestia 1959 Celeston X-2 PCGS MS66
For the Nation of Celestial Space, a fictitious currency was established. This monetary system saw 100 Ergs equaling 10 Joules, which equal one Celeston – basically imitating cents, dimes, and dollars. A total of three different coins were produced with a complete set being nine coins with all dates, varieties, and strikes. These coins were the Celeston, being .900-fine gold and weighing 2.2 grams and the Joule in sterling .925 silver weighing 4.15 grams. The coins feature Mangan’s daughter, Ruth, with her bust mimicking designs of Liberty on classical United States coinage and wearing a crown declaring “Magnanimity”.
For the Celeston coinage, coins were produced in 1959, 1960, and 1961. The 1959 and 1960 issues were produced in both normal and Proof strikes; a variety is known with a small R next to the bust on some 1959 coins. Reported mintages for the 1959 Celeston coins were 540 pieces and 200 for 1960. These mintage figures don’t appear to be split up between Proofs and business strikes, and no mintage figure is noted for 1961 issues. The gold Celeston coins were originally sold for $7.50 each in 1959 and 1960, and prices were raised to $10 each later in 1960 and 1961.
The silver Joules coins feature two varieties, both dated 1961; one measures 20 millimeters in diameter with a border and one is 17 millimeters in diameter without a border. A brass 1 Erg coin dated 1968 was noted to be produced.
Nation of Celestia 1959 Joule (20mm) X-1 PCGS MS64
Mangan’s death in 1970 was also the end of the declared micronation of Celestia. Other family members, such as his daughter Ruth Mangan Stump (“Princess of the Nation of Celestial Space”) and the grandkids–with titles “Duke of Mars”, “Duke of Selenia”, and “First Representative of Celestial Space”–inherited the nation. However, the futile quest for Celestia’s recognition disappeared with the elder Mangan, as did the nation.
Today, the coins from the Nation of Celestial Space are very scarce but do appear every so often, some with grandiose prices to rival the ambition of the Mangan’s quest to rule space. Yet some pieces fall through the cracks due to people having no idea what the Nation of Celestial Space is and its significance – or insignificance, depending on your viewpoint.
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I am cataloging the Gene Hynds’ Estate Collection of Aerospace Medals and have noted the following in Gene’s holdings:
1 Erg coin dated 1968
1 Celeston coin dated 1959
1 Celeston coin dated 1961 with “R” to the right of neck on obverse
2 100 Ergs Outer Space Mail stamps
1 Celestia Passport to the Moon document